Sri Lanka skipper Dasun Shanaka has lauded Maheesh Theekshana for his stunning debut figures of 4/37 from 10 overs and stated that the 21-year old spinner has mastered many variations of spin. Shanaka also stated how Theekshana's skill makes him an extremely challenging bowler to face.
After the ODI-series was levelled 1-1, Sri Lanka team outplayed South Africa in the decider on Tuesday, September 6, to clinch the contest by 78 runs.
The star-performer was 21-year-old off-spinner Maheesh Theekshana, who bagged 4/37, as the visitors were bundled out for a paltry 125 in 30 overs. This was after Sri Lanka had posted 203/9, having opted to bat.
Dasun Shanaka's decision to bring in Theekshana for the third-match, due to spin-favoring conditions, worked greatly in Sri Lanka's favor. Theekshana was originally included in the side for the T20Is that were to follow.
"I actually brought Maheesh Theekshana into the team to play T20s," Shanaka said after the match.
"But I knew that on a track like this where it turns a lot, it's going to be hard for South Africa to read someone like Theekshana out of the hand. I took that risk as a captain and the selectors and coaches supported me. And that became a big advantage for us."
Theekshana recently bagged four wickets at an economy rate of 6.4, during Sri Lanka's recent tournaments. The youngster has played 11 List-A games and boasts an impressive record of 19 wickets at an average of 16.15. Shanaka further praised Theekshana for mastering several variations of spin, which make him difficult to read.
"He's played a little bit at the higher levels - not internationals - but he's played league tournaments like the T10 and the LPL," he said.
"It's not easy to read him because he's now got the googly, and the carrom ball, and his offspin as well. Because he's got several variations, I don't think it'll be easy for any team to read him. But it's because he has some skill that we used him. It's not just how difficult to read him, we also know that he's a skilful bowler."
This was Sri Lanka's first ODI series victory this year from five attempts, after having lost to West Indies, Bangladesh, England and India. While Shanaka asserted that his team had identified and addressed their shortcomings, he is still worried over the inconsistency in batting and the death-bowling woes.
"Batting is where we have a weakness still," he said. "We don't play enough sweeps or reverse sweeps against spin, and we've got to do that in future. We might win series, but we have to focus on how we're going to score 300 or chase 300 going forward. We also need to figure out our death bowling a little more. Those are the big areas for improvement."
He also pointed out Sri Lanka's lacking experience, but remained hopeful of the young guns developing with time.
"But in this team, the only players who had played more than 50 matches were Dinesh Chandimal and Dhananjaya de Silva, so I think that as a team we should be able to hit our targets in the future," said the 29-year-old. "When you get experience, your game develops. I have a lot of belief that with that experience this group of players will perform well in the years to come."
The two teams will now face off in a three-match T20I seires, the first of which will be played on Friday, September 10.